Did you ever watch a film, see some delicious food in it, and had to eat that dish after the movie ended?
I know I’ve been there too many times.
One of the best parts of learning a new culture is trying new food. For Korean food, this is undoubtedly true. There’s many ways to discover Korean cuisine through Korean friends, TV shows, and Korean dramas.
Korean films is a great way to discover new cuisine too, as the food presented in many of these movies will quickly whet your appetite.
During the mid-2000s, these films, dubbed Korean food movies, enjoyed popularity within the country. While this genre has lost popularity in recent years within the country, it would be a shame to let this once-popular genre go unnoticed.
Fortunately, Korea seems to agree that food films are awesome, as The Seoul International Food Film Festival celebrates food cinema.
The 9 Korean food movies to whet your appetite
With that being said, let’s take this time to look at nine Korean food movies that will make you fall in love with Korean cuisine, if you haven’t already.
1. The Recipe (2009)
Original title: Doenjang / 된장
Genre: Food, Mystery
A man on deathrow has one wish: to eat doenjang jjigae — spicy Korean stew. A TV producer, Choi Yun-jin, hearing the pleas of the inmate, wanted to do an exclusive on his story.
While Choi is researching his story, he meets a woman who makes such a good doenjang jjigae recipe it can make people cry who tastes it.
However, he soon finds out that the female cook is not just awesome at making Korean stew, but is somehow connected to the inmate he’s researching.
What is doenjang jjigae?
Doenjang jjigae is spicy, hot Korean stew and have has vegetables, tofu, seafood, and meat. It’s one of the staple Korean foods and eaten a lot during the cold, winter season (and Korea gets insanely cold during the winter.)
2. Antique (2008)
Original title: Sayangkoldong Yangkwajajeom Aentikeu / 서양골동양과자점 엔티크
Genre: Food, Drama
Jin-hyuk has the money, looks, and charm. As an heir to a family fortune, his life appears to be set. Except, he’s lacking one thing: a love interest. To solve this, he envisions having cake shop to woo the ladies.
After all, who doesn’t like cake?
Jin-hyuk hires a bodyguard, an ex-boxer, and a patisserie and calls the cake shop Antique. While these four guys are happy and carefree at first, their pasts soon catch up to them one by one.
Like anywhere else in the world, Korean cake comes in all different flavors. Cream and strawberries on top are the popular toppings. Cheesecake and chocolate cakes are flavors often ordered. Cakes can be bought in nearly any coffee cafe, Baskin’ Robbins, or bakeries like Paris Baguette.
3. Final Recipe (2013)
Original title: Paineol Resipi / 파이널 레시피
Hao was once a famous chef, but has fallen on hard times. His once-famous restaurant is now unpopular due to people’s modern taste. Bitter that people in today’s generation don’t appreciate the traditional dishes he cooks, he becomes bitter and hard to deal with.
Since Hao is difficult to work with, his restaurant faces bankruptcy. His grandson, Mark, is destined to go to university and get an engineering degree. Yet, Mark wants to become a cook like his grandfather and take over the restaurant instead.
Going behind his grandfather’s back, he decides to enter a cooking competition and win it to use the prize money to keep the restaurant afloat.
4. A Great Chinese Restaurant (1999)
Original title: Bukkyeong Banjeom / 북경반점
Han made a promise years ago to one of his childhood friends, Yang, to open up a jjajangmyeon (짜장면) — Chinese soybean black noodles — restaurant. They follow up on that promise by opening up Peking Ban-Jeum.
Yet, as Han’s health worsens, he decides to close the restaurant and call it a day. However, Yang’s son and daughter decide to take matters into their own hands. He rallies the former restaurant employees and attempt to restore Peking Ban-Jeum.
What is jjajangmyeon (짜장면)?
Jjajangmyeon is Chinese black noodles and is a popular dish in Korea. People can order this dish from Chinese restaurants or order delivery service to your house. These noodles are also eaten during Black Day, a bros-only day celebrated for single guys every April 14.
5. Le Grand Chef (2007)
Original title: Sikgaek / 식객
Genre: Food, Comic Book Adaptation
Based on a comic book, a grand cooking contest is held with the prize being a special knife. The knife is said to belong to the last royal chef of the Joseon Dynasty. The chef was so loyal to the last Joseon king and his country that he cut his arms to show his loyalty.
A Japanese official, moved by the chef’s story, took the knife back to Japan as a national treasure. Now, his son has come back to Korea to give the knife to the winner of the cooking competition.
6. Le Grand Chef 2: Kimchi Battle (2010)
Original title: Sikgaek 2: Gimchi Jeonjaeng / 식객 2: 김치 전쟁
Genre: Food, Comic Book Adaptation
When a Japanese Prime Minister makes the bold claim that kimchi is originally a Japanese dish, this instantly sets off the Korean president.
The Korean president immediately announces a government-sponsored Kimchi contest. Jang-eun and her stepbrother, Seong-chan, are famous kimchi chefs in Japan and hear about the contest.
However, for years, Jang-eun feels bitter about their restaurant, “Chunyang-gak”. She felt her mother loved the restaurant more than her.
Thus, the two do the most natural thing two chefs would do to solve any dispute: hold a kimchi competition to settle the fate of the restaurant. Jang-eun wants to shut down the restaurant, since it brings back bad memories between her and her mother growing up. Yet, Seong-chan wants to save the restaurant and keep the kimchi tradition going.
What is kimchi (김치)?
Kimchi is the national food of Korea. Made of spicy vegetables and seasonings, kimchi is literally served as a side dish with every Korean meal.
7. The True-Taste Show (2011)
Original title: Deuroomatsho / 트루맛쇼
Genre: Food, Documentary
You know when the opening passage is “I know why the food at restaurants introduced on TV isn’t that good” the film will expose the food industry. This Korean food movie is perhaps the most bold in doing so. The film goes behind the scenes and talks to chefs, announcers, and producers of various food shows.
8. Koala (2013)
Original title: Koala / 코알라
When Dong-bin decides to quit his job to set up his own business, he hires his good friend, Jong-ik, a struggling actor who’s failed over 200 auditions. They hire a part-time worker and set up “Burger Boy.”
Yet, like all new businesses, the three already face numerous problems. How will they make money? Where will the customers come? How can they afford the rising meat prices?
With the possibility of losing the restaurant, the three need to find a way to turn it around.
Burgers in Korea
Burger joints can be found on nearly every block in Korean cities. One of the most popular chains is Lotteria. Although westernized, Lotteria occasionally experiments with fusing Korean food with burgers.
The ramen burger above is just one example. McDonalds and Burger King are two other popular burger joints in Korea.
For the non-burger chain fans, there’s some great mom-and-pops burger restaurants in the foreign district of Itaewon and the ritzy Gangnam area in Seoul.
9. Cafe Seoul (2009)
Original title: Cafe Seoul / カフェ・ソウル / 카페 서울
If you’ve ever been to Seoul, you know the strong cafe culture within the bustling city.
In 2014, Seoul claimed the fictional title of “most Starbucks in a city in the world.”
This Korean-Japanese film shows how the cafe culture has changed the new generations Y and Z of Koreans. Cafe latte, Americano, and mochas are everyday words to Koreans, as many cafes are packed daily.
Coffee in Korea
Want somewhere to go on a first date? How about Starbucks. How about meeting friends or studying? Again, coffee shops are the way to go. Heck, even some interviews are held in a cafe.
Koreans have readily accepted cafes and coffee culture in their country. No longer are coffee shops are foreign to Koreans. In fact, not seeing a cafe for more than one block would be weird, especially in Seoul.
Which Korean food is your favorite?
These Korean food movies definitely make us hungry for more Korean cuisine. But what’s your favorite Korean dish? Let us know in the comments below!